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The Bank of Russia keeps the key rate at 7.50% p.a.

26 October 2018
Press release

On 26 October 2018, The Bank of Russia Board of Directors decided to keep the key rate at 7.50% per annum. The domestic financial market has stabilised in the time since the previous Board meeting. However, pro-inflationary risks remain elevated, especially over a short-term horizon. The uncertainty over future external conditions persists. The Bank of Russia forecasts annual inflation to be 5-5.5% in 2019 and return to 4% in 2020. The Bank of Russia will consider the necessity of further increases in the key rate, taking into account inflation and economic dynamics against the forecast, as well as risks posed by external conditions and the reaction of financial markets.

Inflation movements. Annual inflation is on track to return to 4%, consistent with the Bank of Russia forecast. The annual rate of consumer price growth totalled 3.4% in September (3.5% according to the 22 October estimate). This September’s upward movement of inflation was largely driven by annual food price growth accelerating to 2.5%. This was supported by changes in the balance of supply and demand in certain food markets. Also, prices are adjusting to the ruble exchange rate that has weakened since the beginning of the year. According to Bank of Russia estimates, most annual inflation indicators reflecting the most sustainable price movements are growing.

The price expectations of businesses remain heightened, triggered by the weakening of the ruble which took place since the beginning of the year and the forthcoming VAT rise. Household inflation expectations, albeit lower in October, are markedly above the current year’s average Q1-Q2 readings. Uncertainty persists over their subsequent movements.

The domestic financial market saw a stabilisation in the second half of September and in early October, with exchange rate volatility declining. This was helped by the Bank of Russia’s September decision to raise the key rate and suspend foreign currency purchases in the domestic market under the fiscal rule through the end of 2018, as well as a certain stabilisation in the external environment.

The Bank of Russia forecast assumes consumer price growth rate at 3.8–4.2% by the end of 2018. One-off factors are expected to trigger a temporary acceleration in annual inflation, which will peak in the first six months of 2019 and run at 5.0-5.5% by the end of 2019. Quarterly year-on-year consumer price growth rate will draw close to 4% as early as the second half of 2019. Annual inflation will slow down to 4% in the first half of 2020 when the effects of the ruble’s weakening and the VAT rise peter out.

Monetary conditions. A certain tightening in monetary conditions is ongoing. In the time since the previous Board meeting, OFZ yields have moved lower but are still markedly above this year’s Q1 readings. Under these conditions, a further rise in interest rates is progressing in the deposit and credit market. This enables positive real interest rates on deposits to sustain in positive territory, which will support the attractiveness of savings and balanced growth in consumption.

Economic activity. The Russian economy is growing at rates close to its potential. This September saw a rise in industrial output; sectoral output trends remained mixed, however. Consumer demand expanded at moderate rates, mainly on the back of non-food sales. Bank of Russia estimates show that investment growth was continued in the third quarter. The Bank of Russia keeps unchanged its 2018 annual GDP growth forecast of 1.5-2%

The Bank of Russia’s view of the Russian economy’s mid-term growth prospects has also remained mainly unchanged. In 2019, the forthcoming VAT increase might have a slight constraining effect on business activity (mostly in the beginning of the year). The newly attracted budgetary funds will be used to boost government spending, including spending on investments, as early as 2019. As a result, according to the Bank of Russia forecast, GDP growth in 2019 will range between 1.2% and 1.7%. The following years might see higher growth rates as the planned structural measures are implemented.

Inflation risks. The balance of risks remains skewed towards pro-inflationary risks, especially over a short-term horizon. The stabilisation in the domestic financial market comes with continuing uncertainty over future external conditions and their impact on financial asset prices.

Further yield growth in advanced economies, capital outflow from emerging markets together with geopolitical factors might lead to the amplification of volatility in the financial markets, and affect exchange rate and inflation expectations.

The Bank of Russia leaves mostly unchanged its estimates of risks associated with oil price volatility, wage movements and possible changes in consumer behaviour. These risks remain moderate.

The Bank of Russia will consider the necessity of further increases in the key rate, taking into account inflation and economic dynamics against the forecast, as well as risks posed by external conditions and the reaction of financial markets.

The Bank of Russia Board of Directors will hold its next rate review meeting on 14 December 2018. The Board decision press release is to be published at 13:30 Moscow time.

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